Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Sixth Sunday of Easter

Sixth Sunday of Easter (B)

May 10, 2015
Text: John 15:9-17

He is risen!  He is risen, indeed!  Alleluia!

            “Love” is perhaps the most abused word in the English language.  I love my wife, and I love pepperoni pizza.  Can that possibly be the same kind of love?  We say “I’m in love with you,” but we really mean “I’m in lust with you.”  We love the idea of love, but we have no idea what love is.  There are four Greek words that mean different things, all of which we translate with the English word, “love.”  “Love” is always supposed to be a good thing, but in fact our abuse of it often makes it a bad thing.  “Love,” in our culture, can mean obsession or possessiveness.  Harm and abuse and perversion are done in the name of love.  The physical act of love is often anything but.  And of course, love in our culture particularly means tolerance for anything and everything, even if tolerating that thing harms the person we love.  Because not tolerating it is considered unloving, and that we simply cannot tolerate.  We’ve done a great job screwing all this up.  Love is one of those slippery words that can mean whatever you want it to mean at any given moment, which means that unless you carefully define what you mean by the word, “love” is meaningless.
            But not to Jesus.  “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13; ESV).  You want a definition of love that pins it down, the real thing, real and true love? Look at the crucifix.  That’s it.  Jesus lays down His life to save His friends.  Jesus goes to hell and back to save His friends.  And the thing about these friends is that they’re only His friends because He says they are.  They certainly aren’t friendly to Him.  He’s talking about sinners.  He’s talking about those who despise Him, reject Him, mock Him, kill Him.  He’s talking about you.  For you He lays down His life.  For you He is pinned to the Tree, suffers, and dies, precisely so that you can live and be His friend, forgiven of all your sins which are now covered by His blood.  That’s love.  Love is not a feeling.  Love is not an emotion.  Love is not your heart going pitter-pat when your beloved walks into a room.  Those things are all very nice, but they are not love.  Love is decision.  Love is action.  Love is Jesus deciding you are His friend and taking the action to make it so.  The Greek word used here is agape.  This is love bestowed on one who is wholly unworthy, entirely unlovable.  It is a love that expects nothing in return.  It makes no demands.  It gives everything.  This is love unto death.  It is the love that sacrifices the lover for the sake of the one loved.  It is love that goes to the cross at the hands of the beloved, for the sake of the beloved.  This is Jesus-love.  This is love of which you are entirely incapable.  I mean, if you’re going to love someone, you expect at least a little love in return.  And if you’re going to die for someone, well, it better be worth it.  St. Paul puts it this way: “For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:7-8).
            Mother’s Day is a great day to talk about this kind of love, because mom’s love is the closest thing we have to agape outside of Christ.  Even this isn’t exactly the same thing, but it’s parallel.  Moms, you know this, you will love your children and die for your children no matter what they do, even if they reject you or disown you, even if they do horrible things to you.  You’ve said it to them ever since they were little ones.  Maybe you’re disciplining them (which, by the way, is an act of love), and they shout something like: “You’re doing this because you don’t love me!”  And you say, “I’m not happy with you right now, but I’ll always love you.”  And you mean it.  You don’t feel it.  But you mean it.  Love is not an emotion.  It’s a decision and an action.  Now, just to be clear, you love them because they’re your children, so even this is not agape.  God loves us even when we’re not His children.  His love is that He goes into action to make us His children, the action of the cross, the action of death and resurrection, Word, Baptism, and Supper, for you.  That’s love.  Remember that line from the Lenten Hymn, “My Song is Love Unknown”?  “Love to the loveless shown That they might lovely be” (LSB 430:1).  It’s not that there is something lovable in you that makes Jesus comes and save you.  It is that you are so completely unlovable that Jesus comes to save you, that you be made lovable, that you “might lovely be.”
            Beloved in the Lord, Jesus loves you.  Can anything give you greater joy than that precious phrase?  Jesus loves you… yes, even you.  He loves you with the love of the Father Himself.  “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you” (John 15:9).  And He gives you to abide in His love, as we talked about last week in the verses leading up to our text this morning.  He gives you His Word, preached, read, sprinkled, eaten, and drunk, that by these means you abide in Him and in His love.  And incidentally, our translation says, “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love” (v. 10).  That is certainly a literal and legitimate translation, but it can lead to a huge misunderstanding.  It makes it sound as if we have to prove our love to Jesus by doing what He says, and if we don’t do what He says, if we sin, we don’t love Him.  And that can lead to a big crisis of faith.  The sense, actually, is this: If you keep, treasure, meditate upon my Words, everything I’ve said and taught and done for your salvation, then you will abide in my love.  Because the Words of Jesus are the vehicle of His love.  His love flows to us in His Word.  And this is joy, true joy, full joy that cannot be taken away from you, not even in the midst of sadness or tragedy or pain.  Because you always have Jesus’ Word.  “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (v. 11).
            Jesus loves you, and He calls you His friend.  That gives you joy!  You did not choose Him, but He chose you and appointed you to be His own (v. 16), and He makes known to you, again, by His Word, all that He has heard from the Father.  You’re His confidant.  You know things about Jesus and about His Father that no one else knows, because He has revealed it to you in His Word.  You have access to God that other people don’t (Scaer), because you are Jesus’ friend.  That’s why you pray to Him confidently, and you know He hears and answers.  That’s what friends do.
            And the thing about being Jesus’ friend, is that it necessarily makes you friends with all the rest of His friends.  This is the reality of the Church, the Holy Communion, the group of forgiven sinners Jesus calls His friends.  So He tells you to love one another (v. 12).  The word, again, is agape.  Now, wait a minute!  We just heard that we are incapable of this kind of love.  And we are.  We are.  But when you abide in Christ and in His love, this is what happens.  The love of the Father for the Son flows to you through the Spirit in the Word and the Sacraments, and then it flows through you to one another, and to the world.  Jesus doesn’t want you to love one another with just your own kind of love.  That will never work.  It would be a disaster, and we’d all be operating on our own meaningless definitions of love, whatever they happen to be.  No.  Jesus wants you to love with His love.  He wants you to abide in His love so that you’re always being filled with it, so that it overflows to one another.  Jesus wants to love your neighbor through you.  That’s the fruit He wants you to bear: His love poured out for your neighbor. 
            You don’t do it very well.  Your love keeps getting in the way of Jesus’ love.  You know this.  Confess it.  Repent.  Your love doesn’t want to do hard things that bring you hateful responses, rejection, and mockery.  Remember, Jesus’ love is the love of the cross, the love that dies for those who hate Him.  That’s the love that now flows through you.  This love disciplines children, speaks the truth to your spouse, and confesses Christ to loved ones who don’t want to hear it.  This love says, “Because we love you, you shouldn’t come to the Lord’s Supper today, because we don’t want you to eat and drink spiritual harm on yourself by not discerning the Body of Christ.”  This love says, “I’m saying this because I love you, but what you’re doing is harmful to yourself and others, and it is sinful.  It cuts you off from Christ.  I love you, and I don’t want that for you.”  Love does hard things, and then it takes the consequences.  It suffers the anger, the resentment, the rejection.  It pays the fines, loses the business, and does the jail time.  It marches willingly to death.  It is not an emotion.  It is an action.  Your love can’t do it.  Repent.  But Jesus’ love can.
            And Jesus’ love has.  He bore His own cross to Calvary.  He stretched out His arms on the cross-beams.  He took the nails.  He took your sins.  He took your death.  He took your hell.  That’s love.  No one else has a love any greater.  He died for you.  And He is risen!  He is risen, indeed!  Alleluia!  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.              


Blogger Mark Powell said...

Amen. Thank You for maintaining your sermons on this blog. It's a great way to stay connected when circumstances prevent one from attending Sunday's Divine Service.

9:53 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home